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"I am About to Die - Please Come To The Party"

Two female relatives set an example by encouraging my family to celebrate life at the end, not mourn the loss-to-be.

Photo of Stacey Seronick
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My grandfather told me a story when I was a young girl that sounded so fantastic and wonderful to me that I could barely believe the story was true, never mind that the woman whom the story was centered around had been a relative of mine before I was even a thought. Grandpa's somewhat distant relative, and one of a handful he called family that he hadn't married or sired, invited him to her funeral some time around 1967. She was not yet dead. She had married very well, never had children, and had been left an enormous estate by her late husband. She knew she had weeks, if not days to live (why, I don't recall) and so she was throwing a party to celebrate her death so she could give everything away to the people she cared about. Grandpa flew to LA that weekend, went to the party, which he said included a pianist playing his aunt's favorite song over and over all afternoon. She gave away her possessions and fortune to the people in her life - the grocery delivery clerk, the milk man, her private nurse, the mailman, and so on. Grandpa said he had never seen anything like it but she seemed entirely happy on the eve of her death, so who can argue?

Fast forward 20-ish years and his wife, my grandmother, passed away at the age of 92 from cancer throughout her body. She never accepted treatment for it despite knowing it would kill her sooner rather than later. She told us, "I'm 92 and I've had a wonderful full life, and I'm surrounded by my family. What else do I need? I'm okay, I'm done and that's okay with me. Now go eat!" And that was her attitude for that last awful week or so of her life. Truth be told, it was only awful for us, who would (hopefully) continue living longer than Grandma - she was clearly at peace and was being her wonderful, subtle self as always - she made sure, without any of us really realizing what she was doing until it was all over, that *we* were going to be okay. She kept reminding me how proud she was of me and that while it's okay to be sad "about all this", that she was okay and made whatever peace she needed to make with whom or what ever. It was the most gracious...I lack a better, additional was simply admirable, that's all. I hope I live that long and can be that satisfied and happy at the end to be able to calmly and strongly let go like that. She didn't tell us to go party, though she did make sure we left her side regularly to go eat. I miss her dearly, still, but the example she set is something I will never forget. And apparently neither will several of the hospice nurses who were with her and us in those last days. Grandma treated absolutely everyone and event with equal time and respect, including her own passing.

What is a provocation or insight that might inspire others during this challenge?

Celebrate the life, don't pre-mourn the death. Let people die in the way they prefer, not you, if there's a choice to be had.

Tell us about your work experience:

I currently work as a content strategist for wholesale customers at Wells Fargo, and have been in some way shape or form in the design, UX, and digital worlds for most of my career (~19 years).


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Photo of Chandra Shekhar

Photo of James Takayesu

I am so impressed with the bravery your grandmother showed in her last days.  I love the idea of moving the celebration of like ahead of death - funerals are important to remember, but isn't remembrance better shared with the ones we are about to mourn?  If the death process allows it for myself, I vote for the latter.  Thank you for contributing so wholeheartedly.

Photo of Sarah Brownrigg

Thanks for sharing Stacey. It's an inspiring thought.  My grandma repeatedly tried to give things away to family members in the last year or so of her life and I kept saying, no you keep it, as if accepting her things meant she might die sooner... I didn't want the things, I wanted her! Now, I wish I'd had the grace to allow her to gift those things, not for the sake of the things but for the sake of allowing her the satisfaction you talk about in your story.

Photo of Nancy Shapiro Rapport

Celebrating life is so much more inviting than mourning death. Being present at your own celebration of life? Brilliant! 

Photo of OpenIDEO

Hi Stacey, thank you for the post. We'd love for you to add an image to your story. Images help grab attention and tell a story. You should be able to use the Edit Contribution button on the top of your post and follow the instructions to add images from there. Looking forward to seeing more of your inspiring insights on OpenIDEO.